Like many other actresses who guest-starred on a single episode of the original “Star Trek” series, Louise Sorel’s career extended far beyond the Trek universe.
“I didn’t watch a lot of television back in the 60s so knew little about shows such as Star Trek,” recalled Sorel from her home in New York. “Although I wanted more movie work, my agent kept calling with offers for TV roles so I did a lot in the 60s, 70s and beyond.”
Yet it’s her role as a blonde android beauty in the third season episode “Requiem for Methuselah” that remains memorable to fans of classic TV.
“None of us thought the show would become so popular as it did during the later reruns,” she said, noting that laughter often filled the set due largely to Bill Shatner.
“I’d played his wife earlier on an episode of ‘Route 66’ and he was just so much fun to be around,” she explained. “I’m a dog fanatic, and Bill would sometimes bring his Doberman to work so I would often visit with them both on the set.”
Whether television sci-fi, drama, or comedy, Sorel did it all (see www.louisesorel.com). Beginning in the 80s, she went on to appear in hundreds of episodes of the daytime soaps “Santa Barbara” and “Days of Our Lives.”
“I’d never seen a soap, much less wanted to do one,” she recalled. “Then I heard Dame Judith Anderson was in ‘Santa Barbara.’ And my character was to be such a wonderful villain, so I had to give it a shot.”
Growing up in Hollywood, the entertainment world was part of Sorel’s real family life. And although her father was a film producer and her mother an actress, she says her own entertainment career wasn’t inevitable.
“They probably influenced me to some extent, but it really wasn’t until I was around 14 when I had to choose subjects in high school that I took drama because it sounded easy! Our Hollywood High teacher John Ingle inspired many of us to pursue acting.”
Albert J. Cohen, her father, produced some 50 films with big stars such as John Wayne and Errol Flynn. Her mother, Jeanne Sorel, was born in Egypt. She was a skilled pianist with a handful of small film and TV roles to her credit.
Sorel still vividly recalls her father’s 1948 film “Unknown Island.”
“I woke up one morning and looked out my bedroom window and there was a giant dinosaur in our backyard, the height of our two-story house,” she laughed. “No one told me it would be there, so I just started screaming.”
The hysterical child ran downstairs to her mother in the kitchen. But unlike most moms who might have been whipping up a batch of cookies, Jeanne Sorel was preparing a batch of red liquid to be used as fake blood for the film.
“Our house was near the Republic Studios lot, so they used our big backyard for filming to save money, rather than the expense of location shooting,” she recalled. “My mother asked me to take the ‘blood’ over to my father on the set. I remember him trying to calm me down by opening a door in the stomach of the mechanical dinosaur and having a man climb inside to show it was fake.”
Sorel made her Broadway debut at the age of 21 in “Take Her, She’s Mine,” which opened at the Biltmore Theatre in late 1961 starring Art Carney and says the cast “all had a crush on Art and adored him.”
Sorel’s most recent appearance was in “I Remember Mama,” produced 2 years ago in New York before playing last summer in New Jersey’s Two River Theater.
In addition to the recognition she receives for her television and film work, Sorel says the satisfaction from a theater audience’s immediate response has never lost its appeal.
“Theater was in my blood from the age of 14,” she says, “and always will be.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 600 magazines and newspapers. See www.tinseltowntalks.com for more information.